NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Underachievers
by Dennis Ranahan

The National Football League presents Sunday night in Texas when they have the Dallas Cowboys visiting the Houston Texans. Both teams came into this season with hopes higher than their current standings suggest.

Last year, Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson burst on the scene with as much flair as Patrick Mahomes has generated this season. Watson had driven the Texans to five straight games of 30 points or more before a mid-season injury ended his rookie year.

The off-season rehabilitation program went well for Watson, and hopes in Houston had Watson continuing his surge this season. In fact, there are a couple things worth noting about Watson’s five straight 30 plus points performances, the Texans only won two of the games.

While Houston has stars dotted in their defense, their stop unit has been below average in all but one of J.J. Watts professional campaigns. Perhaps the Texans one and three mark this year is much more an accurate representation of just how good this team really is than the preseason hype.

Facts often get in the way of a good story.

Tonight, the Texans host the Dallas Cowboys, who two years ago earned the best record in the NFC and last season missed the playoffs. After a year in which runningback Ezekiel Elliott was an on-again off-again project with his battle with league rules, a war that ended with Elliott having to serve his six game suspension and serving as one more flash point for the Cowboys dwindling success.

This year, with the league office battles behind Elliott and his Dallas organization, Cowboys management figured this would be a team in the thick of the NFC East race and a real Super Bowl contender.

Hype over actuality.

The Cowboys have more problems this year than they did last year with Elliott fighting his suspension and eventually serving it. This year, the Cowboys offensive line, a strength in years past, is in flux. The offense still has a couple solid skill position players in Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, but the Cowboys quarterback that burst on the scene two years ago is now likely to pass for less than 200 yards an outing.

The Cowboys are underdogs tonight, and they should be. The Texans are favored tonight, and it couldn’t be any other way.

But, to lay points with a shaky Houston team seems a bit more risky than I like to lean on for an investment quality point spread play. And to back the Cowboys on the road, is pure folly.

When faced with two bad choices in a football game, the best choice is to move on to the next game without risking any capital on this one. But, given it is a Sunday night primetime telecast and you want an edge this way or that … I’d take Houston tonight and lay the field goal point spread.